God’s Shepherding Hand

So I finished sermon number four in the series God’s Shepherding Hand yesterday, and just completed my Saturday night review of the message for tomorrow.  It has been a really good series in the Psalms.  I started with Psalm 23 which was really good because it helped me to focus on what really connects these particular psalms together.  I followed the readings from the lectionary, so I started with Psalm 23, followed by Psalm 148, Psalm 67, and the one I just finished in Psalm 97.

I picked up on the theme in each of the psalms of God’s shepherding hand, and it is really not something that we spend a lot of time thinking about.  I looked at making the shepherd deeply personal, stressing that we think of him as my shepherd throughout this series.  What is it about my shepherd that means so much to us?  Could it be that we really do need or crave to have someone keeping an eye on us?  Do we forget that God really does take care of us our entire lives?  And then what is required or expected of us as we start claiming God as my shepherd?  It is really a concept I don’t remember hearing any of my professors talk about in seminary.  And over my 20+ years of ministry I have not really thought about it much until now.  Is it the events that have been going on in our church over the last year or so?  Is it maybe what has been going on in my personal life?  Only God really knows the answer to this question, but it is a good one to ask.  I am really glad that we have been looking at this question as well as others over the past four weeks.

Each week I start working on my message on Monday, and after reading through about 4 or 5 translations (usually KJV, NRSV, NIV, ESV, and NASB), I sit down and write my academic outline.  Then I work on the bulletin outline I call the applicational outline.  When I am done with that I complete a discipleship study based on the Scripture for the study.  After reading Sticky Church by Larry Osborn I really like this way of preparing for Sunday.  So my applicational  thoughts were My Shepherd for Psalm 23 looking at how my shepherd provides, my shepherd protects, and my shepherd pursues.  With Psalm 148 we looked at praising my shepherd looking at the heavens lift their praise, the earth lifts praise, and humanity praises the shepherd.  Last week Psalm 67 looked at my shepherd’s blessings and the shepherds ways are known, the shepherds ways are just, and the shepherds ways bring blessing.  This week, with Psalm 97 we are looking at my shepherds glorious reign seeing how his glorious reign is revealed, how his glorious reign is rejoiced, and how his glorious reign is upheld. As I shared earlier, this series has really opened up my own thoughts about the Book of Psalms and why we as Christians should be studying it more in-depth.

So what will this mean for us as we move forward with our Christian walks?  It really goes well with what our theme was for 2015 here at DCPC, which was Come Grow With Us-Growing the Family of God which was stressing personal spiritual growth and discipleship.  With this series we dug deep.  We concentrated on the anchor of everything we are as Christians, and that is God, my shepherd, being our foundation.  No wavering, no losing focus, but being locked in on the anchor Jesus Christ.  Without that we can’t have the security we need, the security we crave, that eternal security that only Jesus Christ can offer.  If you would like to read the complete sermon series, please email me at pastor@dcpcfamily.org.

 

A Cultivated Life-A Review

I have just finished an excellent book and wanted to share it with you all.  The book is The Cultivated Life-From Ceaseless Striving to Receiving Joy by Susan S. Phillips.  I received the book as a gift in October, but picked it up to read late in March.  I posted about it a few times on my Instagram @revdougs.  Dr. Phillips is executive director and professor of sociology and Christianity at New College Berkeley and will be one of the faculty at San Francisco Theological Seminary for my Pastor as Spiritual Leader Doctor of Ministry.  I am very excited about having her in class after reading this book. It has been a long time since I have written a book review, but I really want you to read this book, so I am going to highlight some of the reasons why.

This book serves as an introduction to Christian spirituality, and if you have never read a book on this topic before, this is an excellent one to start with.  Eugene H. Peterson, who wrote the foreward, had me hooked even before I had read of word of Dr. Phillips.  On page 10 he writes: This is a book written specifically for those of us who are assigned the task of developing an imagination for living the Christian faith with insight and skill in and for a society that is disconnected from the biblical revelation and the Jesus incarnation.  This was exactly what I was searching for to help me make sense of a world that has drastically changed over the course of my 20 plus years of ministry.  Now that I was engaged, what would I learn from this author?

In the Introduction there is a question presented, found on page 15, that starts moving me toward the answer I am seeking. How can we participate in the cultivation of our souls in a ceaselessly striving, circus-like culture that pushes us to be performers and spectators? It is with this question that I am drawn into Dr. Phillips premise that draws upon biblical imagery of cultivation and the narratives that animate it. In twelve chapters Dr. Phillips takes us on a journey using this concept of cultivation.  She defines it on page 35 this way:

The cultivated life is one of persevering in our longing.  In the garden and on the trail, grace collaborates with dedication.  Our completion comes toward us as we move toward it, and this is all part of what Paul calls the “still more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31).

Throughout these chapters, which at the end of each one there are at least two or three questions to help us dig deeper, we learn the basics of Christian spirituality.  We learn more about truly listening to others, as well as keeping our own Sabbath times.  In chapter nine she explains what spiritual direction is and why it is important for us as Christians to find our own spiritual directors.  Again, I am not writing a complete review, I am only highlighting a few key parts for myself.  I encourage you to buy and read this book.

If for any other reason, the Appendix makes purchasing this book totally worth it.  It has Guidelines for Practices in these areas:  contemplative listening, Sabbath Living, Lectio Divina, Finding a Spiritual Director, and finally for Cultivating Friendship.  These guidelines are well written and presented in a way that helps them make sense and provide a path for us to follow as we grow deeper in our faith.